Two years have passed since the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Public Health Service urged that all dwellings be tested for accumulations of radon - a radioactive gas believed responsible for up to 40,000 lung cancer deaths each year. Unfortunately, few people in Utah or elsewhere have responded to the advice.
Depending on soil and other environmental circumstances, radon can quietly build in a house, particularly one that is energy efficient and tightly sealed.While most residences will meet the EPA guidelines of four picocuries per liter of air on an annual average basis - a picocurie is a measure of radiation - studies show that from 5 to 10 percent will not.
One survey in Utah showed 13 percent of the homes screened had test results higher than the guidelines. The maximum level recorded was 68 picocuries per liter. Given the potential health risks, more homeowners ought to have a radon test done on their dwelling.
Radon test kits can be purchased for $10 to $20 from a retail store or laboratory. The price usually includes analysis. Running a test is no more difficult than changing a furnace filter. However, if radon levels are high, reduction of the radon can be expensive. Any testing should be done according to information in the EPA publication, "A Citizen's Guide to Radon."
In an effort to promote more public awareness of the problem, Gov. Bangerter has proclaimed Oct.14-20 as Utah Radon Action Week. For more information on radon, there is a toll-free radon hotline, 1-800-SOS-RADON. To obtain publications or get answers to specific questions on radon testing or reduction procedures, call the Bureau of Radiation Control, Utah Department of Health, at 538-6734.
None of this should be taken as a reason for panic. It is just a common-sense health precaution.